“The key is deciding that you want to give and what you’re passionate about,” said Wendy Arenson about the benefit of planned giving through the Jewish Community Foundation. The same could be said of Arenson, whose unusual blend of experience and enthusiasm for all varieties of Judaism and Jewish philanthropy has led her in a circuitous route to the foundation.
Arenson, who has been active in the Orange County Jewish community for many years, was named director of legacy planning of the foundation in March. Having been a member of Reform, Chabad, Modern Orthodox and Conservative congregations, as well as having three children who attend Tarbut V’Torah and being active in the Orange County Community Scholar Program (OCCSP), Arenson appreciates and respects the many aspects of Orange County Jewish life and the need for sustaining them.
After growing up in Orange County and graduating from UCI, Arenson attended Loyola Law School and interned for the Western Law Center for Disability Rights. Upon graduation, she was involved in many high-profile cases at the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office and as a deputy attorney general at for the California Department of Justice in the Criminal Appeals, Writs and Trials section. During the time she took off to stay home with her children, Arenson got involved with Congregation B’nai Israel, OCCSP and other organizations. While she has gone back to work in civil litigation and has accomplished a great deal in her legal career, Arenson said that she has enjoyed her Jewish community volunteer work even more.
Now Arenson can take her strengths – writing, speaking, connecting with people and supporting the Jewish community – and put them to work for the foundation. She believes that there is “so much untapped potential” in the form of real estate, IRAs, life insurance plans and other assets that people can use in their estate plans to help the community in perpetuity. “Everybody can give a small percentage, and you don’t need a lot of cash to make a difference,” she said.
Arenson wants to show people how giving through the foundation “can impact others around us and engage future generations in philanthropy.” She hopes to educate those in the community about effecting change and creating a legacy “to involve and discuss with our children, to know what organizations they care about.”
Arenson wants people to be able to identify the impact they create and help them to create an endowment that will last through future generations. She wants them to see what their contributions do to help organizations such as the Bureau of Jewish Education, the Ezra Center and many others.
“We want people to understand the benefit of giving money through the foundation by putting money in a donor-advised philanthropic fund in November and December and giving it out later,” she explained. “This is a vehicle that lets people give charitably, decide later where the money goes and not suffer tax consequences now.”
At the moment, Arenson’s focus is on creating a new and lasting philosophy within Orange County’s Jewish community through the Endowment Book of Life. This beautiful leather book has been signed by thousands of people of all ages in more than 40 communities throughout North America, signifying their promise to share some portion of their assets with the Jewish community either now or in the future.
According to Arenson, the foundation’s long-term vision is “to empower our community to instill a meaningful philosophy of giving for future generations, so our children, grandchildren and generations to come have the opportunity for a quality Jewish life.” The book will help individuals to create their own statements.
“If we as Jews don’t give back to the Jewish community, who will?” she concluded. “The foundation is the most efficient and effective way for a donor to give. When we raise the community up, everybody benefits.”
For more information, contact the Jewish Community Foundation of Orange County at (949) 435-3490 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Face at the Foundation
Wendy Arenson, Director of Legacy Planning
Husband: Lance (married 18 years)
Children: Justin, 12; Maya, 9; Emmy, 7
Undergraduate Degree: UCI
Law Degree: Loyola Law School
Affiliations: Congregation B’nai Israel,
Orange County Community Scholar Program